Music and the Writer: My Playlist

Music is my religion. – Jimi Hendrix

(Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix – )

I derive much of my motivation to write from music. Many authors do. Stephen King talks of listening to hard -classic- rock (AC/DC, among others) while writing. I imagine plenty of authors, those established and starving, do. I just don’t have intimate knowledge of their musical playlists.

When it comes to my writing playlist, however, certain songs or musical styles help me to unleash emotionally into my work.

For example:

In my general every-day writing, or the beginning of nearly every writing session, I listen to this song first.

Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums

- A Perfect Circle -

I can’t begin to describe why this song reaches into me and unlocks my Muse. Perhaps it’s the beat, the lyrics, the overall package…. I couldn’t tell you. Music, while one of my many loves and in many ways my own religion, it’s not exactly my most knowledgeable area, either. (As in, I understand the terms, couldn’t begin to demonstrate them though. I know a quarter note is a quarter of a full note, but could I play it for you? Heck no!)

Either way, this song is how I begin every writing session. I don’t generally listen to this song much in my non-writing activities,  but should it cross the path of washing-dishes/exercising/waiting-in-the-ONLY-checkout-line-at-Walmart-after-midnight/folding-laundry/etc., I am instantly hit with the need to write. Much like when a smoker passes another smoker lighting up, or watches it happen on television and they are hit with the full-force desire to light a cigarette RIGHT NOW!

This song brings out my Muse. It is her Siren call.


When I’m writing a scene that’s particularly sad, say a scene about grief,  loneliness, crushing depression, or whatever reason you can think of to be sad about, I usually turn to blues (what little I have on my mp3 player. I need to get more.)

One of my favorites is taken from the movie, Black Snake Moan. (With Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci. It came out in 2007, if I remember right.)

The Losing Kind

- John Doe -

Yet again, I couldn’t explain why this song in particular reaches out to me for scenes like this, but it does. If I had a better collection of blues, I’d probably offer up a different song, but alas, I have not entirely wetted my appetite for the blues yet and as such, don’t have much knowledge of that musical genre yet.


This next video is one of my favorite songs to listen to period, but most especially when I am writing a scene or story that is to me surreal, a dream scene or something rather weird/unexplainable.

So Real

- Jeff Buckley -

I think part of why I love this song is just the strangeness of it. (Again, I am familiar with only a few musical terms. Here, in this arena, I lack all my usual nuances and charm.) I particularly love what sounds to me like a weed whacker. (I know that’s actually the guitar–at least, I think so–but it still sounds like a weed whacker to me. And I love it.)

Ultimately, this song is perfect for scenes about surreality, things that may or may not be real. The artist suffered from schizophrenia and wrote this song specifically about his delusions and hallucinations. For me, this makes it a very personal and beautiful song about insanity. That automatically makes it a favorite.


Let’s talk about love, shall we?

When I’m writing about a good, positive emotion, I look for high spirited music to motivate me emotionally. (Captain Obvious for the Win!)


- Coldplay -

The one above is for love in general. For unrequited love, or “down” love, I prefer to listen to:


- Coldplay -

Coldplay, to me personally, is one of the best bands for “love/romantic” music. Again, I can’t really explain why I think this. I just find their music always revolves around a certain timbre, pitch, tone, octave, whatever, that seems to scream “LOVE” in a wonderful soprano. (Or, uh, whatever.)


I love talking about music, even if I don’t know any of the technical aspects of music. I tried to learn an instrument in 5th grade– the violin. I wouldn’t mind trying to learn again, but I’m just not patient enough to learn how to properly play a musical instrument.

Mostly, I love to discuss music because it’s one of few things that everyone has a true opinion on. One song will never sound exactly the same to another person as it does to me. How we perceive music, how we understand the emotional language of music, these are all reflections of who we are underneath the layers of civilization and society that we camouflage ourselves with.

Music reveals everyone for who they truly are.

Which is why music is such a powerful tool when it comes to writing believable, sympathetic and realistic characters. Music helps the writer to peel away the layers of civilization that would cover the character as they do ourselves, allowing us to reveal our characters as they really are, in much the same way music reveals us in our real lives.


I would include more from my playlist, but I think I’ve put enough up for now. The next blog will cover more music, which scenes I use certain songs to help write, etc.



One day while flying paper airplanes with my kids, one plane will fly right by my neck, in such a way that it slices my flesh open to the jugular, killing me by paper cut.


The Writer’s Toolbox – Online Part 2

Hello again, Constant Reader. (Oops. Slipped into some Stephen King verbiage. Let me change that up to….)

Hello, kiddies. (Ok. The Crypt Keeper will have to do. Definitely suits me better.)

Here we are with The Writer’s Online Toolbox Part 2.

Today we’re going to discuss the various websites at your disposal, in particular market websites.


Now, when I first began writing seriously and looked for publishers, I hit a major obstacle. I had a copy of The Writer’s Market. I used it. I recently gave that copy away, marked up but still mostly good, to a friend of mine who needs to get moving publishing her work. (You know who you are.)

But when it came to the search for markets online, I was stumped. I googled “horror story publishers” and “horror magazines.” Neither of which provided any good results, all of which required I click on individual links.

Google search is one of, but not the best, way of searching for markets.

Finally, after many a moon of not knowing what to do when it came to the online search for markets, I stumbled across Ralan’s SpecFic and Humor Webstravaganza.

Ralan's SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza - Frameset_1249542644884

As you probably can’t see, the website breaks down markets according to pay.

Ralan's SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza - Frameset_1249542915806

On top of pay, it breaks down into Anthologies, Book Publishers, etc.

This is very helpful for the newbie writer. No longer must you browse through your Writer’s Market, searching endlessly between entries and index to know what the little symbols mean, which market pays a lot of money, which pay none at all, etc.

I personally find the information provided in the entries section at Ralan’s to be quite helpful. Take a look.

Ralan's SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza - Frameset_1249543179042

(Sorry about this image being larger, but I would like for you all to have a peek at the going’s-on at Ralan’s.)

The entries are easy to read, easy to understand and best of all, no-nonsense. Exactly the type of thing I enjoy seeing in my market databases.

Ralan’s is my first go-to. Here is where I begin all my market searches.

I should also point out the website is free to use and runs entirely on donations. So in this hard economy, let’s remember that writers aren’t the only ones struggling — so are our publishers and the people who help us find the publishers.


Duotrope's Digest_1249543311373

Duotrope’s Digest is my second go-to for market searches.

The reason I enjoy this site is because, as I’m sure you can see, they actually provide a membership option. The website is entirely free, and runs on donations as well, so if you find yourself with an extra ten dollars this month and you were going to spend it on books, try sending some of that their way.

Having a membership at Duotrope isn’t necessary. You can anonymously access their database, perform searches that go into lots of detail….

Duotrope's Digest_1249543573734

And incredibly, report your market reponses!

Duotrope's Digest - Publication Details- Albedo One_1249543698782

They also have a wonderful facet to membership. You can create your own Submissions Tracker. You input the various data requirements, and the program tracks your submissions. As well as let you know what your average acceptance vs. rejection ratio is. (It’s not anything major. I would honestly prefer a lower acceptance vs. rejection ratio, because I don’t submit as often as I should. If I had a lower ratio, it would reflect how much I submit.)

Ultimately, this is again, a fantastic site. It’s difficult to browse the site. You can’t break down the markets by genre or any other category when exploring the site. All markets are put on a single page in alphabetical order. If you have a story in mind and are looking for the just right market, Duotrope is the answer.

If you’re cruising for a market to sub to, then I would suggest Ralan’s.


Another favorite website of mine that is both amusing and helpful, is Submitting to the Black Hole. This is just another submissions tracker, though completely anonymous and designed to showcase the response rate of the markets in question. The markets on the list are broken down by Books and Magazines, then listed in alphabetical order.

Submitting to the Black Hole_1249544236702

You’ll have to click on the above link and check this website out in full.

If you’ve sent off a story to never get a reply, come along and find that market on the list and report the negative response. If you’re just curious how long that one short story will take at a certain magazine, come along and see their average response time.


These websites are amazingly helpful to me when it comes to searching for a market to submit to. Give them a try and see how they work for you.



On one of my nightly walks, I will come across a foggy patch of road, where I’ll be swallowed into the greyness…. never to see the light of day again. And force fed pea-soup until I die.



There you have it, kiddies. Part 2 of the Writer’s Online Toolbox series. Next we’ll tackle work-shopping/tip websites and where you need to be at right now.


Until next time………

The Places That Scare You

I doubt anyone pays much attention, but just to the right of the page there’s quote that I usually change monthly. But right now it’s on Mark Twain and will stay that way for a while longer. It’s actually kind of relevant to this post.

Today I want to talk about the places that scare you. And I don’t mean just those settings where you’re creeped out, nervous or shivering with fear. There are far scarier places inside each and everyone of us.

Here is something that scares me.

Here is something that scares me.

For a lot of writers, especially those who write horror or otherwise non-mainstream fiction, it’s difficult to go to the dark places inside. Not that we don’t have access to them. Not that we’re worried about bringing the dark side of us out; we know that even if we bring it out in a story, it’s not taking us over.

Generally, if a writer worries about going to the dark places, it’s because he or she is worried about how that reflects on them.

In my experiences with the public at large, who inquire as to what I write about, they generally seem to think that writing horror stories means something is wrong with me. Either in a fundamental, awful kind of way—or just that I enjoy the wrong kind of things.

That’s not to say that every reader of anything is going to automatically assume that writing horror makes you a bad person. I’ve certainly never thought about some of the depraved things I’ve read in my time as a reflection of the writer. Maybe some of the life in the story, some of the pain, but never any of the gore and death.

But some do. And in some cases, that’s all it takes. I pose a question, hypothetical as it may be, but here.. How many beginning authors quit because of concerns about the reader?

Perhaps I should explain why I bring this up, today of all days. I had a frank discussion earlier with a *colleague and he advised me this…

If you’re going to concern yourself with what the reader thinks about you, rather than the story, you may as well give up now.

Very blunt, deadly kind of advice. I decided almost instantly that it’s time to slough off those ridiculous, time-wasting worries and focus on the important ones. (What kind of setting? Is the character fully developed? Is that the right spelling of “misogynist”?)

So how many, do you think, quit because they were scared of the places they could go?

I’m working right now on a story that is turning out far darker than I intended, and I’m glad I got the advice I did today. I’m going to go finish it right now and let it go as dark as it wants to, without a single thought towards the consequences. Because there are no consequences when you let the story take you where IT wants to go, just rewards.

Go on now, all you writers out there. Go on and let the story take you as far as it will go. It’ll probably get dark and bumpy, things will reach out to grab and pull you off, but don’t let them. Just hang on as tight as you can and enjoy it while it lasts.

*Thanks to the colleague in question. He knows who he is. Okay, I won’t make y’all wonder. It’s my good friend, AJ Brown, whom you can find out more about at

Writing Woes (AKA MeTooLazy Syndrome)

I have no self-discipline.

Aside from the usual writing complaints (too many adverb-lys, dialogue, plot, characterization, jeez the list is longer than I thought, plot holes, cold coffee) my first and foremost problem is discipline.

Since the time I started writing full-time, I could have finished two novels, every short story start I’ve got and a lot more in the meantime. But I haven’t. Why not? I type approximately 80 words a minute, with few errors, and I’ve got imagination for days. (If you’ve ever had a conversation with me, you’ll understand. If you haven’t, maybe you should email me and schedule a time to talk..)

There’s something different about writing a fiction story that isn’t just a page long, though. I couldn’t say

My son, the infant character. Look at that eyebrow!

My son, the infant character. Look at that eyebrow!

how it is for other writers, but for me, I’m not just creating a protagonist that does something — the end. I feel like a medium sometimes, between this world and the Other Side–a place filled with brighter colors, broken, bleeding hearts and real emotion. Depth. Going beyond 3D into well-rounded.

This is the place that spawns my characters and they spawn the plot of my stories. I might come up with an idea or sentence, a phrase that sticks in my head until I write it down, but none of the stories I’ve written are really my own. They belong to my characters. For me, it’s this method of writing that makes life difficult. I detest outlines. Hated them since I was a kid. For assignments, I always wrote the essay/paper out and drew the outline from what I’d written. And I really hate planning ahead for a story. The only place I work backwards is math.

Now, even though part of my writing is dependent upon my characters being where I need them to be when I sit at the ‘puter, the rest is really about me being where they need me to be when they’re ready to talk. I hear their call all day long. While I’m sleeping and vulnerable to them; when I’m doing dishes and debating whether or not to make more coffee; even while I’m reading a good book. Perhaps strongest when I’m reading a good book.

So basically, my method of writing is sitting at the computer and typing. I might have a note or two, some sketchy ideas, but really, everything comes out in that moment when the doc opens up and there’s a clean page to be filled.

It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but it’d be a lot easier if I just did it more often.

I feel like an addict to procrastination who quit for a while and took up writing. Then the old addiction came crawling back, slowly, a day at a time, until writing was shoved away. I’m trying to upgrade, I need a heavier monkey on my back. Something that’ll pick at me a little more than procrastination does.

Any other writers out there with discipline problems? What do you do to get yourself writing?

I wish I could offer my own hints and helps with the lazy disease, but as I’m still kind of new, I haven’t found a strategy for battling that monster just yet. I just by the best I can everyday. Maybe that’s all it is. Taking each day at face value and using up every minute of it you can.

Either way, I’m going to get some (more) coffee. It doesn’t really help, but it sure tastes good.

Talk about a lively cup of joe.

Talk about a lively cup of joe.